Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Walter Ameling, Hannah M. Cotton, Werner Eck, Benjamin Isaac, Alla Kushnir-Stein, Haggai Misgav, Jonathan Price, Ada Yardeni (ed.), Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae. Volume III: South Coast: 2161-2648. Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae: a multi-lingual corpus of the inscriptions from Alexander to Muhammad. Berlin; Boston: Walter De Gruyter, 2014. Pp. xxv, 738. ISBN 9783110337464. $182.00.

Reviewed by Michael A. Speidel, Universities of Bern and Z├╝rich (

Version at BMCR home site

This volume is the third of the justly praised epigraphic series published under the title Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae (CIIP) and edited by an international team of leading scholars. The volume is dedicated to the memory of Alla Kushnir-Stein (1941-2013). As in previous volumes, Kushnir-Stein was responsible for the inscriptions on weights. The extent and the importance of her contribution to this project (including the present volume) can easily be seen from the numerous entries bearing her siglum, not least the nearly ninety pages on weights of unknown provenance at the end of the volume (pp. 606ff., nos. 2580-2648).

The first volume of CIIP (vol. I.1 and 2) appeared in 2010 / 2012 and contained the inscriptions from Jerusalem, the second, from 2011, concerned Caesarea and the northern parts of Israel's Mediterranean coast. Each of these volumes contained over a thousand inscriptions. The editors continue to publish with breath-taking speed. The new volume, which covers the South Coast from north of the modern city of Tel Aviv to ancient Raphia in the South, including ca. 15 kilometers of the hinterland, contains yet another ca. 500 inscriptions (nos. 2161-2648), new or first editions, in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Nabataean, Samaritan, Aramaic, and Phoenician. It includes inscriptions on stone and in mosaics, as well as the minor inscriptions of the so-called instrumentum domesticum, and even ostraca. Inscribed objects of daily use include not only weights and amphoras, but also lead seals (nos. 2367-77), sling bullets (nos. 2274-78), amulets (nos. 2256. 2269-70. 2353-57. 2509-12), a ring (no. 2513), a clay lantern (no. 2393), a toy (no. 2528), a game token (no. 2397), a necklace or a wreath adorned with inscribed gold leaves (no. 2518) and ship equipment from the harbor city of Ascalon (nos. 2378-2386) such as anchors, sounding-weights, and a lead fishing-net sinker.

As in the previous volumes, the inscriptions are presented according to the highest standards of modern epigraphy. Each entry begins with a description of the inscribed object, an indication of the find spot and the current location, followed by a diplomatic transcription of the inscribed text, an edited text and an English translation. Semitic inscriptions are also transliterated. Nearly all entries include a photograph or a drawing. It is also greatly to be welcomed that the editors decided not to overburden their reliable and enlightening commentaries with lengthy justifications of the reconstructions, comprehensive digressions on contextual issues, and exhaustive bibliographies. An index of personal names can be found at the end of the volume.

The inscriptions are presented by chapters according to the forty sites, ancient and modern, to which they are ascribed. The main ancient sites (or find spots) discussed in this volume are Ioppe (Jaffa), Iamnia (Yavneh), Azotus (Ashdod), Ascalon (Ashkelon), Anthedon, Gaza, and Raphia (Rafah). It was not possible to assign all inscriptions to the specific territory of one of these ancient communities, either because the borders of these territories are unknown or because they constantly fluctuated in antiquity. A final group of inscriptions (nos. 2573 – 2648) comprises seventysix items of unknown provenance. Unsurprisingly, seventy of these belong to the category instrumentum domesticum. It is more astonishing that all of the latter are inscriptions on weights.

Benjamin Isaac's geographical and historical essays on the ancient sites are very welcome introductions that provide the inscriptions with their local historical context. Perhaps these components could be further developed by adding (where appropriate) a few general words on the (often very diverse) nature and the historical contribution of the epigraphic heritages of these ancient sites, and (mostly in the case of the exclusively modern find spots) by including a little more archaeological context. Only two maps grace the volume (pp. 737f.). The first one was evidently produced for this volume and shows the area and the find spots it covers, but lacks a caption. The second map, entitled "Roman Roads in Judaea and Arabia" was produced by Israel Roll and Ora Paran years ago for a different publication, and was simply copied into this volume at the expense of the map's appearance. In this respect, more could have been done. Finally, since the publication of the first volume, a general index is sorely missed. The editors are aware of this. A solution on the Internet, as they originally envisaged, would substantially enhance the usefulness of the published volumes, but, as the editors now announce (p. vii), a general index will only be produced after the edition of all inscriptions is completed. This is regrettable, but when decisions have to be made because of "considerations of time and funds", the editors' choice is understandable and surely appropriate.

The bulk of the inscriptions included in this volume consists of modest (predominantly Greek) funerary epitaphs and small fragments. The single largest group contains eighty 3rd – 6th century CE funerary inscriptions from the ancient necropolis of Ioppe (Jaffa) (nos. 2174-2255), which have therefore rightly received an important introduction of their own (pp. 36-38). The second largest group is supplied by the above-mentioned seventy weights manufactured in Anthedon, Ascalon, Gaza and Raphia, but of unknown provenance (nos. 2579-2648). In addition to these, inscriptions counting among the instrumentum domesticum (including many more weights) make up more than half of the entries for Iamnia (nos. 2269-80) and Azotus (2298-2309) and nearly half of the entries for Ascalon (2353-94). Another prominent feature of this volume is the large number of inscriptions in mosaics (nos. 2166-68. 2255. 2264. 2297. 2313-16. 2318. 2321-24. 2327. 2424-29. 2432. 2443-58. 2460-61. 2531-33. 2539. 2542-47). Nearly all these are in Greek (no. 2168 is in Aramaic, 2461 in Hebrew) and originate from the floors of churches, monasteries or synagogues (notable pagan exceptions are nos. 2568-69).

The primary achievement of this volume no doubt lies in the collection and reliable scholarly presentation of nearly the entire ancient epigraphic heritage of the areas concerned, irrespective of the languages of the inscriptions. (Perhaps it would also have been worthwhile to search for a way to include the texts of reproduced inscriptions such as stamped tiles etc.). Nevertheless, there are also several texts of particular historical, cultural or linguistic interest. Thus, one might mention, from Ioppe, a dedication to king Ptolemy IV, as well as the base, from the reign of the Roman emperor Claudius, for an honorary statue of the Roman senator L. Popillius Balbus (nos. 2172-73). Iamnia produced a Samaritan Aramaic and Samaritan Hebrew inscription from the late Byzantine or early Arab period (no. 2265), a Greek letter of Antiochus V Eupator with a petition of the Iamnians to Antiochus from mid 163 BCE (no. 2267), a Latin funerary inscription for the wife of an imperial freedman and procurator (no. 2268), and a group of lead sling bullets, some of which (at least) can be associated with the Seleucid pretender Tryphon (nos. 2274-78). A substantial 3rd century BCE Phoenician dedication was found at the site of Cariathmaus (no. 2293). Four Greek inscriptions of the 5th and early 7th century CE from the synagogues of Ascalon (nos. 2321-24) and a Greek inscription (probably from the base of a statue) honoring a Roman centurion from the reign of Nero, who is also known from an inscription on the statue of Memnon in Egypt (no. 2335), have survived, unlike a now lost bronze inscription from the same site proclaiming privileges for the local Jews that Julius Caesar decreed in 44 BCE (no. 2332). Two fragments of a Greek inscription that appears to have been a letter of a Hellenistic king have been found at Anthedon (no. 2439). From Gaza the volume presents, among other inscriptions, a Late Antique Greek inscription on the renewal of the city walls (no. 2475), a 3rd century BCE funerary epigram for a Ptolemaic officer (no. 2482), and a Greek verse epitaph from 569 CE (no. 2503). Around 13 kilometers further south, the site of Tell Jemmeh / Kh. Jamma has produced several Aramaic ostraca (receipts?) from the 4th century BCE (nos. 2548-59). A funerary monument with a poem for a Roman tribunus militum from the beginning of the 3rd century CE is among the remarkable entries from Raphia (no. 2565).

One should not expect any volume of this kind to contain an entirely representative overview of the ancient epigraphic production of the regions it covers. Too much has been lost and destroyed over the centuries. The extent of this loss is another of the many insights this volume provides. Yet, by incorporating all surviving inscriptions of local production (as far as their current location is know), irrespective of their language(s) and including the instrumentum domesticum, the editors have not only provided reliable access to all of these sources, but also remind the reader of the enormous range of objects that could be and were inscribed in antiquity. Overall, the editors have thus produced another highly welcome part of what is already an invaluable research tool for all those who are interested in the history and culture of the ancient Near East — Judaea /Palaestina in particular — as well as the rich multi-lingual epigraphic heritage of this part of the ancient world. Whatever minor flaws one might detect, they fade away in the light of the great merits of this volume and the entire series. While we anxiously await the next volumes, the editors are to be congratulated without reservation.

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